Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My battle with DiscountMugs.com

I figured the most ridiculous customer service situation I've ever been in was a good reason to resuscitate this blog. It's a long one, but so insane that it's worth the read.

On August 31, I placed an order with DiscountMugs.com for 45 stemless wine glasses with the name and date printed on them for a baby shower I was helping to plan.

["Wine glasses for a baby shower?" you ask. Whatever. She can use it when the kid drops.]

I do quite a few events and have never used this company before, but my usual company didn't have a baby elephant design, which was the theme of the shower. The event was on September 12, but the arrival date the site gave me was September 9, so I figured, no problem.

[No problem. Hahahahahahahahaha.]

I got a confirmation email right away, with the following note at the top of the email in bright red so you can't miss it.

You will receive a proof of your order/artwork via e-mail within approximately 24-48 hours. Orders will not be processed until you submit your approval. This notice does not pertain to blank, sample, or monogram orders, as no proof will be sent.

On the morning of September 2, I still had not received a proof to approve, so I called the company to ask about the delay since there was a short turnaround time. I was told by a customer service agent that because of the turnaround time, they had decided to put my glasses into production without sending me a proof. This sent up some red flags with me, so I asked him to send me a proof immediately.

When I got the proof, it was clear that the design was going to be too small on the 9 oz glass. I called back and asked to speak with a supervisor, who told me because the glasses had already gone into production, it was too late to change them. I made it clear that sending them into production before sending me a proof was their poor decision and that the item needed to be changed. Without time to go back and forth with proofs, I asked for the largest stemless wine glass they had, which was 21 oz. Yes, a bit big for wine for most people, but not for my friends. The supervisor assured me that he would make the change for me since it was their mistake to begin with, but that I would have to approve the new proof before he could make the change. I approved the proof immediately.

I got a notice that day that the order had been shipped. The glasses were delivered on September 4.

Upon opening the glasses, I realized that had sent me the 9 oz glasses, despite the lengthy conversation with the supervisor. Unfortunately it was now Friday night of a holiday weekend, so the issue would have to wait until Tuesday.

This is where it gets fun.

[And by fun I mean stab me in the eye kind of fun.]

On Tuesday, September 8, I called customer service and spoke with Deandre and told him about the situation. He informed me that they could replace the glasses in time for my event, but I would need to send the claims department a photo to prove that the wrong glasses had been sent. He sent me an email to reply to with the photo. I sent him this.

It's pretty clear that the glass sitting next to the box labeled 9 oz is, in fact the same size as the box. In addition, the C8832A corresponds with DiscountMugs.com's item number on their site for the 9 oz glass, and the print on the glass is the same print I ordered for my event. Surely this was enough proof.

I emailed Deandre that afternoon for an update. No response.

I emailed Deandre the next day, September 9. No response.

I called customer service first thing in the morning on September 10 to find out what was going. At this point, two days before the event, it was going to be too late to replace them, so I was going to have to use them. My plan was to ask for a 50 percent refund. After sitting on hold for almost 30 minutes, I finally got Alexandra on the phone, who told me that Deandre had been out of the office.

[We'll save the bullet points on why this is such a shitty process for a different post.]

Alexandra informed me that their claims department was now asking for a video of myself pouring 9 oz of water into the glass to prove that it was, in fact, a 9 oz glass.

A video. Of me pouring water into the glass.

I told her in no uncertain terms that this was by far the dumbest thing a customer service department has ever asked me to do. But I did it anyway. Here is what I sent them.

I also let her know that since the company had taken so long to address the issue, there was no longer time to replace the item. I would have no choice but to use them so that the gift bags weren't empty. Because of that, I was asking for a partial refund of $116. That afternoon, I asked Alexandra for an update. No response.

I didn't hear from anyone at DiscountMugs.com until Monday, September 14th when I got this response via email.

We do apologize for the inconvenience. Discount Mugs value your support, however we were able to come up with a great resolution for you. We can offer you an ISC of $72 for your next order, you can use it whenever you would like. The greatest news is this ISC In Store Credit never expires! Please let us know.

This email is almost as dumb as asking me to provide a video of me pouring water into a glass.

I paid $232 for the glasses. They were offering me less than half of that in store credit, with the assumption that I'd ever be using their company again. I made it clear that no, DiscountMugs.com would not be on my vendor list moving forward and no, a store credit for $72 was not a "great resolution." I also asked for the address the company uses to receive legal correspondence, because I am not above filing a small claims suit out of principle.

[Clearly being 7 months pregnant with a toddler and a full time job isn't fulfilling enough.]

I got this response.

We have received your request. A refund will not be a problem, however we will have to issue a call back. Which we will have to receive back the order that you received and in order to receive a full refund all 45 of the C8304 will have to be in the package. You will receive via email the ticket for FedEx all instructions will also be provided.  Again we do apologize and thank you.

Man, this girl is just not listening. Also worth noting, not a single person from DiscountMugs.com bothered to call me at any point during this process.

Since email is clearly their preferred method of awful contact, I emailed back, reminding her that I had informed her days before that I would need to use the glasses, which is why I was only asking for a partial refund.

On September 15th, I got this response.

Sarah we apologize for the inconvenience. We are doing all that we can to assist you. Unfortunately a full refund we cannot give. That refund was contingent on receiving all 45pc back, since we did not, the refund is no longer an optionWe can however offer you an (ISC) In Store Credit for the inconvenience.  An In Store Credit of $116.00, If you have any other questions please give us a call back.

Clearly someone forgot to put on her listening pants. At no point did I ask for a full refund. I already made it clear that I would not be using them again, so a store credit was also not acceptable.

At this point I think that DiscountMugs.com makes the process so difficult in the hopes that people will just give up. Unfortunately for them, I'm not that person.

[Also, I may be a little crazy, but that's another post entirely.]

I'll be filing a small claim for the money, plus the filing fee plus a little extra for the trouble and time. This will cost me only the filing fee, but as a corporation, they will have to be represented by an attorney. So instead of giving me the $116, it will now cost them thousands.

Is all of this worth the $116? Perhaps not. But at this point, after a week of dealing with a company with such little regard for their customers, it's no longer about the money.

[It's about principles, dammit. And maybe the money.]

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My fertility piece for Vox

I work every day in the sports world, so getting the opportunity to write this for Vox was pretty great. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sometimes fertility treatments are embarrassing

Warning: If you're easily embarrassed, you might want to skip this one. 

I embarrass myself a lot. Like when I drew a pornographic sketch for Jack on the steamed up shower glass and later realized it was still visible when the cleaning lady came that day. Or that time I was interviewing a Caps player and realized that a teammate’s sweaty jock hanging in an adjacent locker was dripping on my shoulder. Or every time I get caught in public fishing food crumbs out of my cleavage. But this beats them all.

One of the earliest fertility tests they perform is a saline test, where they fill your uterus and Fallopian tubes with a saline solution to make sure there are no blockages affecting ovulation. My doctor had performed a similar test previously with dye and an x-ray, that had turned up a possible blockage and the saline test was expected to be more conclusive. Unlike the dye test, the saline test isn’t physically painful, just awkward.

I went in for my saline test on a warm day in September. The test went well – no blockage this time – and I was feeling good until I realized that I had forgotten the rules of gravity. What goes up must come down, which means that I would slowly be leaking clear saline for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, the nurse had me covered. Unfortunately, that coverage was in the form of a maxi pad that was most certainly “maxi.” Two inches thick and as wide as a saddle. I was wearing a floor length sundress and the underwear I had chosen that day wasn’t likely up for such a big task. But I had no choice, so I stuck the pad in there, said a prayer and waddled out of the doctor’s office.

I had made plans to meet a friend for lunch, so I went to the restaurant right from the doctor’s office. We had lunch, did some shopping and I left for home in the late afternoon, stopping at Target on the way. Walking into Target, I realized I had to pee so I headed to the bathroom and picked my stall (one stall buffer always, ladies). About five seconds into my pee I realized something was wrong, and a moment later I realized with horror what it was.

The pad was not there.

As the gravity of what was happening hit me, I began to run down the possibilities. Is it stuck to the inside of my dress? Please let it be stuck to the inside of my dress. But it wasn’t. 

Did it fall out in the car? Nope. 

With the two least embarrassing options ruled out, the rest were mortifying. Is it in the parking lot of my doctor’s office? Is it under the table in the restaurant? Did it fall out as I was crossing the street in the middle of shopping? Did someone see it fall? DID EVERYONE SEE IT FALL? 

The only thing that would make it worse is if I had been aware of it when it happened, and I am eternally grateful that I wasn’t. I called my lunch friend to see if she had noticed anything.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAOMGHAHAHAHAHA,” was all she could say when I told her what had happened. I started laughing too, because the whole thing was absolutely ridiculous.

To this day I have no idea where it went. But if you were walking around Old Town Alexandria on a warm day in September 2012 and came across an abandoned maxi pad, it’s mine.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When this journey began

We started our fertility process in August 2012, after 15 months of trying to get pregnant. We had already done some preliminary fertility testing, all of which came back inconclusive. I was diagnosed with “unexplained infertility,” which is a crappy diagnosis because you really have no answers. Basically, my uterus was being a total bitch.

Jack and I went to Shady Grove for our first appointment on a weekday morning. The first meeting with the doctors is to go over what testing you’ve done, analyze your situation and come up with a plan for moving forward. They also sit you down for a talk with their financial planners to go over what your insurance covers and what your particular treatment plan would cost you out of pocket. It’s a lot of information to get in just a couple of hours, and it’s incredibly overwhelming.

While they tell you ahead of time what you’ll go over in that first meeting, no one can prepare you for the emotional toll of hearing all of those words out loud. I have always been the girl who wanted kids, but sitting at that table in the financial planner’s office was the first time in my life that I began to doubt whether or not this was what I wanted. Tens of thousands of potential dollars spent, possibly with no result, the months to years of your life dedicated to the process and the mental and physical exhaustion you put your body through just to try, I began to wonder if it was worth it.

We drove home from that first meeting mostly silent, both of us trying to process everything that was just thrown at us. I pulled in the driveway, turned off the car and just sat there, neither one of us making a move to get out of the car.

“I don’t know if I want to do this,” I said.

It was the first time Jack had ever heard me question wanting a child, and he was shocked. Before that day, there was never a doubt for me that kids were in our future. But in that moment while trying to process what we had just learned, I wasn’t sure anymore.

Maybe this will sound silly, but when you’re trying naturally you tend not to really think about the actual having of the kid too much. It’s exciting and fun. But when you’re looking at spending a small fortune on a regimented medical process, it changes the way you look at the result. I started to ask myself questions, some of which made me feel like a terrible person. Did I really want to go through all of that just to have a kid? What if it doesn’t work? Is the universe trying to tell us something? What if we spend all that money and it does work but our child isn’t perfect?

And perhaps the biggest: Wouldn’t it be better to decide on your own to not have kids instead of letting the process decide that for you one day?

It was too much for me to handle at that moment and I broke down sobbing, still sitting in the car while Jack – going through his own emotional turmoil - searched for the words to make me feel better. And here’s the thing – when you’re going through fertility treatments there are very few “perfect” things for people to say. But Jack somehow found those perfect words.

“Listen, I want kids, but I don’t need them,” he said. “All I need in my life is you.”

That moment and those words reminded me that we had a good thing. It wasn’t like there was a baby-sized hole in our lives that needed filling. A kid would be a great addition, but if it wasn’t in the cards we could spend the rest of our lives traveling and growing our careers and enjoying all of the expendable income that childless couples have. No matter what, it was going to be ok.

I wish I could say that day was the worst of it – it wasn’t. The process is hard and heartbreaking and humiliating at times, and not everyone has such a strong support system in place. But sitting there in that car that day, hearing those words, I knew that we could handle it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A new chapter

I set up this blog a few months ago to have a medium to entertain and interact with friends, family and readers in a different way. But, when you write for a living, it doesn’t always leave time to keep up with side projects. It looks like that’s going to change.

As most of you know, I’ve been writing for the Washington Post’s D.C. Sports Bog for the last two years. I’ve been under contract, and in December I was told that they were turning my position into an employee position. It would mean that I would be required to apply for my job, which at the time wasn’t a big deal.

Unfortunately, when the job description was sent out in January it was not for the job I currently hold. There were some fundamental changes and new requirements that I felt I could not successfully do while raising the infant that is due in May.

I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to work with the Post to stay on in some capacity, but it looks like that won’t be happening. My contract is up at the end of February, and I’ll be leaving the Post at that time.

I’m not sure what the next step will be yet (Ezra, call me maybe?). The goodbyes can wait for now. I’ll be with the Post until the end of the month, and you can always find me on Twitter, via email and in this space. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Breaking Kogod news

Alternate title: Why I Had Mac 'n Cheese For Breakfast

Man, am I excited to announce this. Jack and I are expecting a baby boy in May! I’ll spare you the customary sonogram pic. No one knows what they’re looking at in those things anyway.

I’m in the first week of my second trimester and this was a really hard thing to keep from you all, especially since I seem to be expanding in about eight different directions. It’s been a super easy pregnancy – no morning sickness, no food aversions and no cravings. I mean, I want mac ‘n cheese a lot, but I think that’s just because I’m fat and like mac ‘n cheese. My biggest issue has been some severe fatigue, which is why the fact that I work from home most days is a plus. No one can see when I fall asleep in the middle of writing something, which has happened more than once.

But before you come at me with pitchforks and torches for bragging about having an easy pregnancy, know that the process to get here wasn’t easy.

After more than a year of trying to get pregnant, Jack and I started fertility testing in August 2012. All of our tests came out fine, which led to a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” Basically, my uterus was being an asshole. Our doctors recommended starting with IUI (intrauterine insemination) in February of this year. We’ve been through six fertility cycles, more than 50 blood tests, dozens of self-given injections and multiple miscarriages.

Basically, it’s been a really rough year, so shut up and let me have my easy pregnancy.

I know that’s a lot of information to share with you all, and that’s the point. Over the next several months I’ll be using this space to talk about our fertility process. The painful stuff, the humiliating moments, and the humor I used to get through it all.

I promise I’ll write about other stuff too, so bookmark this site, even if you don’t care about my uterus.

In the meantime, yay. A baby.